Sometimes called the “People’s Republic of Takoma Park” and the “Berkeley of the East,” the city seems to exist in a world of its own. Even as new businesses trickle in, there is an uncanny feeling of wandering into the past.
Since 1972, world music has found a home under one roof. With a staff knowledgeable in international music such as Celtic, African and Scandinavian folk, David Eisner's shop sells anything easy on the ears -- from kalimbas to ukuleles. It also offers lessons, rentals and repairs. Even Leonard Cohen has been a customer.
Diners might crave specialties such as kifta and dolma, but late-night crowds can get burgers with their baba ghanouj in the bar out back, along with Lebanese wine and beer. "We had an idea of bringing a late-night spot to the area," said manager Chris Hishmeh. That was in 2008, when no night life existed -- in part, because of the neighborhood's Adventist history. The bar has since been nicknamed the "Cheers" for artists.
With unusual silks, cottons and wools, the clothing here is given new life by customers with a fondness for the past. Some shoppers are headed to "Great Gatsby" and "Mad Men" parties and proms, but others buy the apparel and accessories to wear every day. Shoppers can also meet Roger, the resident Yorkie, and Winston, a cockatiel.
Long before Mark Choe opened what is now a Takoma Park staple, he owned an electronics store in South Korea. "I wanted to see what America looked like," he says. The menu's unique vegan, Korean and American fare is widely embraced, with 500 people a day stopping by. "It's like a home town," Choe said. "I never had that in Seoul."
"It was a hobby that got out of hand," says owner Larry Silverman, strands of stone, crystal, brass, bone and other materials dangling from the walls. The store offers beads with histories, including silver medallions made in 19th-century Rajasthan and African trade beads. Silverman was a reluctant business partner until his bead-collecting wife passed away. He now believes that beads are not only easily transportable, but carry memories. "We re-string what people come in with," he says. That "helps them remember their loved ones."
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